I am asking for your patience while I deal with a serious situation where our politicians, church leaders and the unaffected have managed to put our head in the sand so far that if we were ostriches we would have suffocated.
I grew up in Northern Manitoba where the church was an integral part of our lives but the priests were not. I was 10 years old when I first served as an “altar boy” for mass at the local Roman Catholic Church. Father la Palme was the priest and he had wandering hands and an even more wandering tongue. But, I had parents who put their kids before God and when my sister told my father that Father la Palme had put his tongue in her mouth, my father went down to the church and took the “father out behind it for a good old fashioned trashing”. Needless to say, we were off limits for the rest of his tenure as the parish priest (so was my mother because he wasn’t adverse to touching women either). He was an overall jerk. But, we were fortunate. My father wasn’t afraid to take on the ‘church’. My father was a man that had memorized his bible during his time in the Second World War and knew what was right. There wasn’t a verse that he couldn’t find in under 30 seconds and could give you the page number before he opened the book. Only the foolhardy would challenge him. If a priest didn’t know his bible to the same degree, he had to earn my father’s respect. He often told us that when you went to war, you always took your holy book (whatever that might be) and alone on guard duty reading was a great consolation.
Father La Palme worked in the residential schools in Northern Manitoba. I have no idea why the Vatican didn’t punt him to Mars. I figure any school or parish where he served must have presented interesting challenges.
Last week, Saint John’s Ravenscourt in Winnipeg was ‘stunned’ to find out that their students were supposedly complicit in the harassment, hazing, and dare it be said ‘the sexual assault with a foreign object’ of a another student’. Was I surprised? No. I was in the military and hazing was part of the deal. Was I horrified? Yes. Would I like divine vengeance? You bet. What I can’t figure out is why no one at SJR knew about this event for 6 months. A school grapevine hums like the internet. All it takes is someone to listen. It says a lot that the students didn’t feel safe enough to come forward when the event happened. The administrators, staff and students should bear the shame of failing to support the vulnerable. After all, a four (or potentially fifteen) to one odds isn’t a level playing field.
Now to the Vatican, Canada is a long way from the isolated papacy. The fact that a group of old ‘men’ get to make all the decisions says a lot. Father La Palme should have been removed from the priesthood with the first offense. Where I grew up, it was his last posting as parish priest. I would like to think that my father had a lot to do with that. After all, a priest saying Sunday mass with a black eye says a lot.
The golden nugget is ‘ when you see anyone being abused, belittled or taken advantage of, you have a morale obligation to take a stand. Even, if it makes you uncomfortable.’ It doesn’t matter whether it is at work, at home or at play, It is what my mother would call a character building event. Apparently, life is made up of character building events. We just have to find the spine to stand up and do the right thing rather than doing things right.
Any person who refuses to defend our weakest and justifies what has happened deserves the worst that we can put upon them. Self justification has become a rallying cry. It wasn’t me, I wasn’t aware. To be blunt, that is pure bull s***. Would you wish upon your family or friends, what happened to these people? Of course, not.
To be absolutely fair, Bishop Paul, Father Rene and Father Remy were always the best that you could wish to know. But, my high school principal, teachers and the school board members were cowards and let the bullies run rampant.
To the Manitoba political leaders, you should have taken a public stand when the events at SJR became public. You have been invisible. In my opinion, anyone who would abuse a child (regardless of their age) should have their rights suspended and be put in a work camp for the rest of their natural life. Since you haven’t responded to the situation, I am assuming that you are still waiting to buy your spine at WalMart.